Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees in SEO

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So many times, we get caught up in the “expectations of me.” We assume that our own behavior and thinking is the norm. We know that there are exceptions to every rule, but we assume that the way we go about doing things is generally also how the rest of the world does it. It’s called the false consensus effect. Essentially, we tend to overrate the degree to which our own behaviors, thoughts, viewpoints, etc. are shared by other people. For example, a person may know that a Filet Mignon is the best cut of beef and simply assume that everyone agrees. However, there are plenty who would argue otherwise. This type of critical misconception is a major road block when measuring SEO results.

Looking at the one foot level, you conduct a few search queries using search phrases that you know that everybody else uses. Your frustration grows as you continue to search and never see your listings where they should be—the first position. This disappointment is understandable, but focusing on a few select queries is like standing in a forest and only seeing one or two trees. You have to back away to get the big picture. If you put ten random people in a room and instruct them to search for your product or service, you will most likely find that they used ten different search phrases. Yes, you can optimize your website to perform at the highest level on key words that you feel are critical, but you very likely will be missing a huge opportunity and the potential for more visitors.

Contrary to traditional media where the rifle approach is preferable, in organic search the shotgun approach is favored. The more search phrases that your website gets results for, the better. Just because the search phrases that you are using don’t produce the results that you expect, does not mean that your next customer is not finding your website using different search phrases.

The metric that needs your attention is not a word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase search. You need to determine whether your organic visitor counts are growing? Are these visitors converting at the expected rate? And ultimately, are you converting them to sales? Now, you’re looking at the health of the forest rather than just a few trees.

Bottom line, if your website is built keeping the visitor in mind first by offering valued content, ease of use and true relevance you will get the solid organic search performance you want. Attempting black hat tricks and gimmicks will never work in the long term. Keep in mind, the search engine’s customer is your customer. If you take care of their customer, they will take care of you!

Jeff Wardwell is the owner and CEO of Driving Force,



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